UNITED NATIONS (Oct. 31)
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir visits President Nixon at about noon tomorrow at the White House in an atmosphere charged with tension abroad and at home for both. The mood for their fourth official meeting is unlikely to be equal to that remarkable cordiality of her state visit last March when the “unparalleled” good feeling from the Presidential election season continued to reign.
A charge has arisen in Israel against the Meir government over U.S. insistence on help for Egypt’s trapped Third Army and without equivalent Egyptian concessions to Israel. In Washington, Nixon is beset by Watergate troubles that may well dictate to a great extent his course in foreign affairs of which he is so proud. The attitude of countless Americans bitterly opposed to the President seems typified by the comment on Mrs. Meir’s visit, “If I were an Israeli I would be scared to death about that fellow. He needs a victory so badly he will sell Israel down the river to get it.”
But there are countless others, more muted in their views, who believe that Nixon will not retreat from his policy of non-imposition by outside forces of a settlement on Israel and that he will maintain the power balance in the Middle East both to continue Israel’s military security and reinforce American strategic interests.
Meanwhile, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt today threatened a new round of warfare while claiming that Egypt wanted peace, demanded an Israeli pull-back to the Oct. 22 positions when the first cease-fire went into effect as the first step toward peace, asserted there would be no move toward a POW exchange with Israel until this pull-back took place, and termed the present American stand “constructive.”
Nevertheless there seems to be certainty even among friends of both the Meir and Nixon Administrations that while the President will not allow Israel to founder, even if that means the use of U.S. forces, he will insist that Israel, in return for U.S. aid, grant concessions to the Arabs that will enable him to bring them within his range of “good offices.” The U.S., it is almost unanimously felt here, needs to preserve the American interest in the Arab oil lands and hopefully to use Arab friendship to offset Soviet penetration to the Persian Gulf, overrunning Iran and Saudi Arabia in the process.
All this means delicate negotiations, presumably over a long period of time. But Nixon appears to be in a hurry. His rapid-fire talks with in less than 48 hours with Egyptian Acting Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi today, his two-hour dinner meeting with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobryn in last night, and his upcoming session with Mrs. Meir signify the speed of the Nixon diplomatic course. The timing of these talks are tied to Kissinger’s trip Nov. 6-11 to four Arab capitals and Assistant Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco’s visit a few days later to two others; and his concluding stop in Israel.
The scheduling is of high significance. Kissinger, who will see Mrs. Meir at the Israeli, Em- lend-lease arrangement, observers here anticipate.
Another important issue is the continued blockade of the Bab El Mandeb Straits. The complex problem of the encircled Egyptian Army–over which the great powers had their confrontation last week–is also unresolved and the subject of differing views in Jerusalem and Washington.
To persuade Nixon of the justice of Israel’s cause she will argue: there must be no prize for Arab aggression; the world is testing the efficacy and trustworthiness of U.S. commitments to small nations through its behavior to Israel; she is facing elections and intolerable U.S. pressure could lead to her losing to a more intransigent party; and Israel at U.S. behest withdrew from Sinai in 1957 without concrete guarantees of her security–and the upshot was the Six-Day War.
To date, there are no indications of Washington itself adopting a position on the vexed border question. The line there still is that this is an issue for the parties to thrash out–and Israel is hoping that line will be maintained. Mrs. Meir is accompanied to the U.S. by Gen. Aharon Yariv, the former head of military intelligence, who has been negotiating on cease-fire issues with the Egyptian military.